As free-living adults, we have the right to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, in whatever amount we want. The fact that you probably don’t do that means that you have some food rules, or as I actually prefer, food guidelines. (Rules are a little too hard-and-fast for my taste, unless we’re talking about something like a peanut allergy, in which case having an absolute rule about not eating peanuts or anything that’s touched a peanut is a good idea.)
Some of your food guidelines are based on likes and dislikes, others are based on health. Since we live in a society where food is pretty much everywhere, all the time, food rules are essential if we want to be healthy and not feel as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey. A completely freewheeling attitude toward food is the antithesis of optimal health.
The best guidelines are not stringent, oppressive or rigid. They come from your personal accumulation of eating experiments, so they are guidelines that work for you. Built this way, your food guidelines can give you a structure that you can actually relax within.
You may be very aware of some of your guidelines (especially if you are actively trying to improve your health). Other guidelines may already be so imbedded in you that they feel as natural as breathing. I had to really think about what some of my guidelines are! And, as promised last week, without further ado…
- I eat lots of veggies and fruits. About 8-10 servings a day, on average. Usually fresh, sometimes frozen, rarely canned.
- I eat eggs several times per week. I eat the yolks, too. I eat my own fresh-from-the-backyard eggs when the hens are laying, otherwise I try to buy organic, omega-3 enriched eggs.
- I eat plain organic yogurt, and use milk in my coffee. I prefer whole milk. I love cheese, but when I have it I try to make it high quality, and really savor it, because you get a lot of calories for not much volume.
- I eat grassfed beef from a small local family-run ranch. I try to eat fish twice a week. I eat chicken and turkey, and while I would like to say I always buy organic, that’s only true part of the time. I eat pork and lamb in smaller quantities, and it is always organic and humanely raised.
- I incorporate beans or lentils several times a week, whether they are the main part of a dish (like lentil soup or bean chili) or just a sprinkling on a salad.
- I eat nuts and nut butters, but am mindful of portions! I prefer walnuts and almonds, because they are delicious and have the best health profiles. I eat a small portion of avocado almost daily.
- I cook with butter, coconut oil and olive oil, but use a light hand with them. I don’t use pre-made salad dressings. I make my own vinaigrettes with walnut or olive oil, and any one of the dozen types of vinegar (or citrus juice) I keep on hand.
- I don’t eat boxed breakfast cereals.
- When eating grains, I choose intact whole grains over whole grain flour. I don’t eat flour (in breads, pasta, etc.), period. I do bake with whole grain flours occasionally, and Jeff makes bread from flour he grinds himself. I rarely eat refined white flour. We have (and enjoy) pasta occasionally, and I consider baguettes and pastries one special highlight of vacations to France.
- I make a conscious effort to get all of my nutrition from food, because we absorb vitamins best when they are in their natural “packaging.” I do take vitamin D because it’s hard to get it from food, and I tend to shun the sun.
- I am mindful about how much sugar or other caloric sweeteners (honey, agave nectar, corn syrup) I consume. I ask myself, “Is this dessert worth it?” (Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no.) I occasionally use stevia, but avoid other artificial sweeteners. I’ve found that, over time, my palate has adjusted so that I don’t need intense sweeteners.
- I don’t eat fast food, might take a chip or two at a party, and don’t eat at “regular” restaurants more than once a week (at most) because the food I make at home is healthier, less expensive, and in many cases just as tasty (sometimes tastier).
- I almost never drink juice, and limit dried fruits to a scattering in oatmeal (instead of sweetener).
- I occasionally enjoy treat foods like fried chicken, donuts or ice cream. However, I consider treat foods as a single food category. If I’ve have a donut today, I will not be having ice cream tomorrow.
- I am ever mindful about what kind of food comes into my house, because I know that willpower is a fickle, fickle thing!